Monday, March 01, 2004

(I've been out all day, and I come home to find a Drezna-lanche. Thanks, Dan. Now I'm a little embarrassed and shy.)


A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a bit about nannies and childcare. At the time, I was a bit dismissive of childcare, because my kids have been in so-so arrangements.

This weekend, I was thinking about what would great childcare look like. I have to admire the old libbers for their willingness to explore new ideas, instead of modern parents who just accept our limited choices. So, what would good childcare look like?

Some universities have excellent lab schools for the children of professors. Columbia and the University of Chicago come to mind. Their schools are overseen by faculty in education or psychology departments, and students care for the children for class credit. It's an wonderful situation all around. The children are with highly motivated, educated personnel. The classrooms are open to all visitors. They are on the campus, so their parents can drop in at any time. It's also good for the college students since they learn by actually working with kids.

These programs should be replicated everywhere. They do not exist at most universities. And even where they are offered, only the children of faculty can attend. There are few, if any, spots for temporary faculty, students, staff, or members of the community.

All large companies should have on-site childcare with areas to have lunch with their children every day. I know that Merck has a great program.

The cost of childcare show be on a sliding scale depending on income. Right now, middle class means $42,000 per year. Childcare should not exceed $5,000 per child. (My local childcare center costs $15,000 per year.)

Since even my perfect childcare system is less perfect than parental care, then the workday should not exceed 35 hours per week.

Commute time can mean 10 or 15 more hours of childcare. This time must be cut down by having one's work, home, and childcare very close together.

Childcare centers should also be operated near senior citizen centers, assisted living centers, and homes for the handicapped. These various groups are all hidden away in the peripheries of our communities. Put them together. Put them in the center of our communities. Have the old benefit from having young kids around. Have the seniors read stories to the kids and the disabled. Have the disabled sing for the old folks and the kids.

When childcare centers are not run by universities, then these centers should pay their workers fairly and offer benefits. They should be affiliated with the public schools, though not be part of the system.

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